2023: Odidi critically analyses economic policies of Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, Peter Obi

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Atlanta-based author and social commentator, Princewill Odidi, begining from last week, attempted a critical analysis of the policies of Nigeria’s three leading presidential candidates in the forthcoming 2023 general elections.

Odidi who is the convener of the Nigerian Conversation took a look at the economic policies of Labour Party, LP’s Peter Obi, All Progressives Congress, APC’s Bola Ahmed Tinubu and People’s Democratic Party, PDP’s Atiku Abubakar.

According to Odidi, PDP’s Abubakar, by reason of his policy seem the most prepared for the presidency despite expressing some reservations with his document, according to him, Abubakar ’s policies are mainly theoretical not down to Earth. He scored Tinubu below average alleging that none of the eight issues raised by Tinubu can be achieved. On Obi, he said that his policy are well thought out and clear while at the same time picking on holes in the policies.

These are the details:

‘Let us discuss the key economic points to restore Nigeria by all three major candidates. Let us start with Tinubu. See his key agenda below:

1: To address security challenge, he plans to decentralize police

2: To launch a National Industrial Policy and create 6 regional industrial hubs, and develop a National policy on Industralization

3: To create new commodity exchange and pricing board to regulate commodity pricing to boost export of agricultural products

4. To increase our electricity from 4 to 15 megawatts across the country

5. Removal of fuel subsidy

6. 25% of National budget to Education

7. 10% of National budget to Health care

8. Financial autonomy for universities to eliminate strikes

Odidi’s comments:

Everything listed above by Tinubus team… none can be achieved.

‘1. How will he decentralize the police? Is he doing it by Executive fiat or Constitutional amendment? A country divided by tribes and religion, how do you bring them together to agree on decentralization? It is a none starter. 4 years of Tinubu Presidency, police will remain the same. Is it that easy then Buhari could not do it?

‘Creation of six regional industrial hubs for Industralization is pure theory. The federal government cannot run the national Industralization policy, budgets are not shared based on zones, but based on federal state and local. If Industralization must succeed, it has to be a partnership between state governments and private sector. It cannot be nationally driven.

‘Creation of new commodities boards to regulate pricing of commodities for export purpose, this policy is nonsense. Look at what pricing control has done to petrol, is this what you want to bring to commodities? Our commodities will all end up in Niger Republic, Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Tinubus team should return to the drawing board.

‘To increase electricity production to 15 megawatts. Outright nonsense. It shows he does not really understand the electricity generation and distribution problem in the country. Any government that can move it from 4 to even 6.5 megawatts that will be a miracle. Tinubus men should be more realistic with projections.

‘Removal of fuel subsidy. I agree with Tinubu here 100%. But this is easier said than done. An economy on the verge of collapsing, removal of subsidy will bring untold hardships, strikes and general instability.

‘25% national budget on education, this too is nonsense. Given our current financial standing, no government can put in up to 10 percent in education. Attempting to put money in education without addressing loopholes in the Education industry, corruption of our university system, open robbery and extortion, shows he does not understand what the main problem is.

‘Next he plans to put 10% on health care. So if you put 25% in education, 10% in healthcare , how much will be left to run the country? Do you plan to group every other thing from Agricultural Industralization, infrastructures, communication, security, military, cost of governance all under 65%?

‘On financial autonomy of Universities, be more specific. Why can’t they achieve that autonomy now, why later? From where will the universities raise independent funds? From students? Policy is non starter.

‘Tinubus men did not do a good job. If I have to grade him over 100%, I will grade him 45%’.

 

*Atiku Abubakar, from my study of all three candidates, he is the most prepared to be President. Although he is not my preferred candidate, I have my personal reasons. Let us take a look at his Economic plans to be President. 

1. Atiku says within the first 100 days of his government he will create an economic stimulus fund with initial investment capacity of ten billion dollars to support MSMEs

2. Stop fiscal support of ailing state-owned enterprises

3. Improve spending efficiency by reducing recurrent expenditure

4. Promote non-debt financing by promoting private sector driven economy

5. To slow down debt accumulation by promoting PPP in critical infrastructure

 

Odidi’s response 

After reading Atiku’s plan, I clapped for him. He is talking pure text book knowledge, everything he listed above cannot be implemented. The reason is simple. Our economy as currently organized cannot be stimulated by wishful thinking. I would have preferred Atiku speaking from his heart, rather than this Harvard, Yale and Princeton demand supply market economy nonsense.

He talks of injecting ten billion dollars in the first 100 days to stimulate small medium enterprises, where will he get 10 billion dollars first 100 days?

You want to be President and you are assessing our economy based on dollars? Do we spend dollars in Nigeria?

Does he have an idea of the type economy he will inherit from Buhari post 2023 elections? In the first quarter of 2022, Nigeria’s public debt rose to N41. 6 trillion from N39.56 trillion recorded at the end of December 2021, putting enormous pressure on debt servicing. Now, with new borrowing to balance 2023 budget we may be at 51 to 55 trillion in debt, unable to service just the interest, and you come on board telling us you will promote ten billion in SME funding. Things like these happens only on Chinese holidays.

I see Atiku as a man ready to say anything just to win presidency. His handlers should advice him to come down to the level of the common man. Atiku should be able to own up to his policies.

On stoping fiscal support of state enterprises like NNPC and proceeding to privatize them, it sounds like a wonderful policy, but who will buy those dead refineries? How easy is it, to wake up and privatize NNPC? Who will buy a dead horse that her operational income is higher than the revenue generated in past 10 years?

Atiku’s policies are smart economics. He will receive a standing ovation before the world bank and IMF, but from the Nigerian reality, from start to finish Atiku has said nothing. He has no plan. All I see is business as usual.

To increase spending efficiency by reducing recurrent expenditure. This is story for the gods. The truth is recurrent expenditure is not even at his control. Does he plan to cut down the cost of governance? Will he cut down the salaries and allowances of senators and House members? Will he cut down on salaries, will he cut down on overseas trips and medical check ups for his friends who made him President?

Atiku should tell us how he will cut down recurrent expenditure.

Let me make this clear here, Atiku does not have the moral fiber to cut down on a system of graft that benefits the same people making him president. That policy is a non starter.

He talks about promoting non-debt financing by promoting private sector driven economy. This to me is a giant step if it can be done.

Nigerian private sector for years found it so difficult to get simple debt financing from international finance, now Atiku says he can promote non debt financing, it sounds like folk tales.

What is Nigerias sovereign credit worthiness in S&P and what are our risk factors for potential investors? If you can answer that question, then you will know Atiku is just talking text book economics, he has no concrete plan for Nigeria.

Finally he talks about slowing down debt accumulation by promoting PPP in critical infrastructure. This also is nonsense.

Remember how DISCOS were set up to manage electricity a few years ago, that’s what Atiku is talking about. How has the DISCOs fared since inception? They have been unable to solve the problem because of the “Nigerian factor”.

We do not have the infrastructure on which development can be built. Until we decide to go back to the drawing board, our best of policies will continue to fail and remain unrealistic.

If I have to grade Atiku using my lenses as an international observer I will grade him 95% because he said all the right things based on text book knowledge, but if I have to grade him using the Nigeria in me, I will grade him 67%.

Atiku may be 100 percent ready to be President, but his team need to do a better work repackaging him.

So much of his policies are mere theory. No concrete plan for uplifting the living conditions of the poor.

*Critical assessment of Peter Obi’s Policy Statements. Since emerging labor party candidate, Peter Obi has made several policy statements. Most can be found on his official social media handles. Let’s take a critical look at these statements and review their viability:

1. On Security, Obi plans to implement level policing that is armed, equipped, and technologically-driven.

My Response: This is what Nigeria needs to tackle insecurity. The biggest challenge is the absence of a constitutional provision to level policing. While technological-driven policing is enviable, the challenge will be more on the Incentives, qualifications, training, and human resource development of those we call the Police in Nigeria. To attain level policing, this will involve a constitutional structural change; this will only be possible if his party sweeps far more than two-thirds of the National Assembly. The current structure of the Police cannot deliver on the dividends of National security. Obi will have extensive work to do here to make this possible.

2. On subsidy: He plans to cut the cost of subsidy by 50%.

My Response: Several factors affect the subsidy of petroleum products in Nigeria. However, subsidy removal without the associated savings for the poor will increase the national poverty level. The best policy on subsidy will be to address associated fraud within subsidy payments. However, fighting those who benefit from the subsidy regime is like fighting Nigeria. If Obi can muster the political will to engage subsidy regime, it will be an excellent policy.

3. To block leakages in government and budget padding:

My Response: This is the bedrock of corruption in Nigeria. Obi can only achieve this feat, only if the labor party clear virtually all seats in the National Assembly. If he has to depend on APC/PDP National Assembly, this may be the beginning of his impeachment notice. The Nigerian corruption industrial complex is built on waste and over budgeting.

If Nigerians want Obi to succeed in this policy, we must vote out almost the entire National Assembly and replace them with Obi’s Party. To say you will vote Obi for President and vote your congressman from another party is calling for trouble. Being able to block leakages is what Nigeria needs now. Obi as a man cannot stop it, frustrated by congress he may end up lame duck. To get this done, the National congress needs to go with the old order.

4. On Education, Obi says he will address the management of Tetfund and UBEC. In his own words, he said, “I will tweak TETfund and UBEC. He also promised to apply about 14% of the national budget to Education.

My Response: Addressing the management of Tetfund and UBEC is excellent. If funds going through these agencies ended in the Universities, half of our educational problems would have been solved. It ends up in inflated contracts and political settlements. Obi will take on a big challenge to fight the monster in the room. Will our National Assembly allow him to tweak these agencies, or will they find a reason to impeach? Second, applying 14% to Education, given the current structure of education funding in Nigeria and the massive poverty in the streets, maybe too much. Remember, states also fund Education from their budgets. 10% investment in Education may be ideal under strict educational supervision. We should remember we also have the national health plan to tackle and accumulated interest on loans.

5. Obi said he would borrow only for regenerative projects and not for consumption;

My Response: this is great. However, his inherited economy will determine if he can follow this promise. The current debt profile of the country may force him to continue consumption borrowing in the absence of another alternative.

6. To move Nigeria from Consumption to Production.

My Response: This will be a tight one. The big question is whether we are a consumption economy by choice or design. How do we key into global industrial production? Do we have the technological, transportation, and communication logistics required to enter the 4th industrial revolution? Do we have market access? What production comparative advantages do we have? How skilled and flexible is our labor force? How do we manage our existing trade pacts, international engagements, tariff regimes, and contracts with other countries? What will be the cost implications of goods and services to an economy dominated by poverty? If Obi can come on board with people having the right skill set to put all the above in place, it is a great vision. Moving Nigeria from Consumption to Production is a possibility and is the way to go.

7. To pursue a contractionary monetary policy based on mopping up excess liquidity by reducing the money supply within the economy.

My Response: This again is an excellent Policy coming from Obi. Nigeria needs this. The problem is our economy is not cashless. Gross illiteracy is partly responsible for why the economy is not cashless. How he will turn this around will be a big assignment.

8. Creation of massive Production Centers and stimulate Industrial revolution:

My Response: This may be better executed by state governments in public private partnerships.

9: Creation of an efficient tax Economy to take people out of poverty

Response: The way to go

10: Peter Obi identified our Electricity problem as coming from ‘Transmission’. He promised to liberalize the transmission sector.

My Response: A big task ahead.

‘11. To refine Nigeria’s Oil locally.

Response: This, to me, is the most significant political statement Peter Obi has ever made. This can turn around our entire economy. The question is, do we have the capacity to engage in such an enterprise? The big question is not if, but how?

 

‘12. Peter Obi claims Nigeria has 84 million hectares of arable land, but barely 40% is cultivated. He plans to make land the new oil, grow sufficient grain, and use it for clean energy.

My Response: Some of these policies will be better promoted by state governments in partnerships with the Private sector. You see more reasons why we need to engage in restructuring. Agriculture works better when decentralized to the local levels. Take a look at Sierra Leone to understand my point.

‘13: To provide healthcare to 100 million Nigerians.

My Response: This is a very tall order given the state of the economy he will inherit from Buhari. The real effects of his policies may be felt when he is re-elected a second term.

‘Obi is what Nigeria needs now. His policies are well thought out and makes meaning,’ he concluded.

 

Odidi writes from Atlanta and can be reached via Princewillodidi@aol.com